BRATTLEBORO — The Florida doctor charged with shooting a truck driver to death in 2019 in Rockingham during an alleged road rage incident is raising questions about an “alternative shooter” scenario, and has said his defense team needs access to additional police materials as they conduct their own investigation into the murder.
Dr. Jozsef Piri, 50, of Naples, Fla., has been free on $250,000 bail since last December, when he was first arraigned on charges of second-degree murder in connection with the death of Roberto Fonseca-Rivera, 44, of Boston. He has pleaded not guilty.
Fonseca-Rivera was found shot in the jaw, slumped over the steering wheel of his Katsiroubas Produce Co. delivery truck, which was found parked on the shoulder of Route 103 in Rockingham.
Fonseca-Rivera was late getting back to Boston on the night of Nov. 1, 2019, and company officials alerted Vermont State Police that his truck was stationary in Rockingham on Route 103, thanks to the truck’s GPS data.
Two years after Fonseca-Rivera was murdered, Piri was arrested and arraigned after a lengthy and technology-driven investigation, which determined that Piri’s Toyota truck was close to the Katsiroubas truck at the time of the shooting. Piri was driving from his vacation home in Londonderry to his home in Connecticut that day to attend a concert.
And, police said, a review of Piri’s cellphone showed he started searching for information about a shooting in Rockingham even before Fonseca-Rivera’s body was discovered by police. Piri and his wife, who is also a doctor, later moved to Florida.
But in a series of motions and counter motions filed in Windham Superior Court, Piri’s lawyers are seeking information and documents about the police investigation, and casting doubt on the integrity of the Vermont State Police investigation, and ridiculing the police conclusion that Piri was able to shoot Fonseca-Rivera from the back window of his moving pickup truck.
The state has countered that Piri’s defense team is not following criminal discovery procedure.
Defense attorney Adam Hescock of White River Junction wrote: “The state’s case must also postulate that Dr. Piri is an incredible marksman with a 9 mm handgun. According to the state, he was able to roll down his truck’s rear window, grab a handgun, establish a ‘reasonably stable firearm discharge platform,’ quickly fire at least two shots accurately between his truck’s rear headrests, while driving alone, and on a very windy day, on a busy highway, openly, on a Friday afternoon.”
“Dr. Piri’s marksmanship must have been not only expert, but also exceedingly efficient and undetectable. So efficient, in fact, that the driver following seven seconds behind Mr. Fonseca-Rivera has not come forward with any evidence linking Dr. Piri to the shooting,” Hescock added.
In particular, Piri’s attorneys are seeking information about a vehicle seen on Lower Bartonsville Road, a short distance from the produce truck, which they claimed the state police considered and dropped.
“There is ample motive and evidence for an alternate shooter. However, VSP appears to have dismissed this possibility early in their investigation. Video evidence from several different sources shows an unidentified vehicle parked on Lower Bartonsville Road, which is just north of where Mr. Fonseca-Rivera stopped his truck,” he added.
He said the police affidavit “at least mentions this vehicle, but quickly downplays the vehicle’s importance based on a cursory analysis that assumes that the gun shots were fired from a vehicle on Route 103 right before Mr. Fonseca-Rivera stopped his truck.”
The motion also mentions two witnesses who saw Fonseca-Rivera’s truck that afternoon parked by the side of the road: One saw the driver’s door open, and the other saw him pull over and reach for his visor.
Neither were mentioned by the state police detective’s affidavit of probable cause, Hescock noted.
They also raised the possibility that Fonseca-Rivera was the victim of retaliation from his former fellow criminal co-defendants in a drug conspiracy case, whom he testified against in court. Fonseca-Rivera received a lighter sentence from prosecutors as a result of his cooperation, Piri’s lawyers claimed.
And they also noted that his home in Boston was shot at a couple of months before his death, by a 9 mm handgun, the same caliber weapon believed to have killed him in Rockingham.
A hearing on the motions will be held on Wednesday in Windham Superior Court.
According to Piri’s attorneys, Piri is entitled to information gathered by state police detectives in their two-year-old investigation as Piri is conducting his own probe into how Fonseca-Rivera died, to prove his innocence.
In particular, Piri’s defense team is seeking to interview Vermont State Police Lt. Anthony French of the Westminster barracks, and Windham County Deputy State’s Attorney Steven Brown is seeking to quash French’s subpoena, which he labeled “unprecedented.”
Brown is also seeking a protective order from Judge Katherine Hayes of the police investigation’s materials.
Piri’s defense team is also seeking the data the FBI provided to the state police from its automatic license plate reader, which state police used to identify the location and timing of Piri’s Toyota truck on Interstate 91 the afternoon of the shooting.
But according to Vermont statute, such information can be considered confidential and “may be subject to statutory restrictions,” read Brown’s motion.
The requests from Piri’s legal team “falls outside the state’s discovery obligations,” Brown’s motion to quash stated.
Piri is being represented by Hescock of the Marsicovetere & Levine Law Group of White River Junction.